Friday, May 15, 2009

2007 Downtown Charrette Report Vol. 11

Back with more River South Focus Area review. Today I'm going to look at the Court/Exchange Street area. The following paragraph was written prior to my decision to break this area up into two posts. It would have been integrated into the challenges section of the previous post.

And then there's the issue of our "Civic Center." I'm willing to bet that when the architectural drawings were floated to the powers that be of a new courthouse complex, there were little people drawn in on the platform. This was wishful thinking. Not that there is any reason to leisure away time on a summer heat island or winter wind plain, today we have a chain link fence restricting access from the street. Civic Center Plaza is a complete functional and aesthetic failure. A public square (the county seat at that!) the size of the arena elevated above the sight line of common pedestrians and difficult to access with the added bonus of being completely barren. FAIL.

With respect to the Civic Center Plaza, a paved surface (covering parking of course) surrounded by building of or relating to the criminal justice system, the first place to start to entice more meaningful use of the space is to make it inviting from street level. A ramp or more suitable staircase without visual obstructions or complications would be a step in the right direction. The erection of permanent or semi-permanent tenting for programmed activities would be the next step in order to divide the plaza itself into more humanly scaled spaces. The addition of some kind of landscaping, anything at all really, is pretty well understood even without mention.

Across Exchange on the bank of the river a surface parking lot marks the spot of the former home of the Erie Railroad Station and northern terminus of its Rochester spur (a possible side debate, was Corn Hill Landing ultimately built too close to the river, precluding any reactivating of this line?). A parcel that could sustain 6-7 individual high quality buildings wraps around a lone survivor, the Court-Exchange Building. The recommendation for this site is similar to that of the Midtown Block, reintroducing small pedestrian scaled streets between proposed mid-rise mixed-use buildings. The district would assume the character of the tight blocks north of the arena but with a functional residential component to sustain non-large scale employment opportunities.

Finally, one of the major missions of the Charrette Report and the architects behind the Design Center is to fully integrate a river walkway through the city and especially downtown. Buildings such as the Rundel Library and Thomson-Reuters buildings would need to have bridges or cantilevered walkways constructed adjacent to them to provide a continuous path. The raised characteristics of the Broad Street Bridge, a former aqueduct would require additional connections barring major physical changes to the structure as a result of the bourgeois 'canal' project.

My next post, hopefully out sometime this week, will recap the Transit Oriented Development lecture given by Jackie Grimshaw last Wednesday.

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